The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter
An electronic publication of
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
October 13, 2009
Volume 6, Issue 8
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a bi-weekly publication that aims to inform disability advocates, scholars, and service providers of the most current issues in disability law, policy, research, best practices, and breaking news.
Below is a topical overview of the items presented in this issue.
A. CIVIL RIGHTS: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Sections
504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state civil rights law
B. EDUCATION: Special education & youth transition to successful postsecondary outcomes
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Assistive, information, and communication technologies
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS: Social Security Income / Social Security Disability Income / Medicaid & Medicare
E. WORKFORCE: Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), & Vocational Rehabilitation
F. INDEPENDENCE: News for and about the Independent Living Movement
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS: Disaster mitigation and preparedness news
H. INTERNATIONAL: News for and about disability topics outside the U.S.
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Study Finds More Frequent Corporal Punishment for Students with Disabilities
According to a Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union report, students with disabilities are paddled more than students without disabilities. The study accounted for at least 41,972 students with disabilities who were paddled during the 2006-07 school year, which likely understates the actual amount because many cases are not reported. Alice Farmer, a principal researcher in the study, noted "corporal punishment is just not an effective method of punishment, especially for disabled children, who may not even understand why they're being hit." As a result of the study, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU are urging Congress to protect the civil rights of students with disabilities by enacting a nationwide prohibition on corporal punishment.
Full story: Sam Dillon, Disabled Students Are Spanked More, N.Y. Times, August 10, 2009, available at
2. Families and Schools Dispute Use of Service Dogs
Trained dogs are often used to aid students with autism, but many school districts are arguing with parents over the use of the animals in a school setting. Under federal law, school districts must permit reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including the use of a service dog. However, school districts are arguing "that the animals do not provide a functional service" and therefore are not truly service dogs. On the other hand, the animals are used to calm students with autism who may be prone to outbursts and have trouble transitioning from one environment to another. Students in Illinois have recently received court orders allowing them to use service dogs in school, and courts in California and Pennsylvania have similar cases on the docket.
Full story: Associated Press, Schools Fight Families over Autism Service Dogs, MSNBC, August 21, 2009, available at
1. Students with Disabilities Assisted by Extended School Year Program
The Salem County Special Services and Salem County Vocational Technical School districts are offering extended school year programs for students with disabilities at three New Jersey schools. The purpose of these six-week programs is to help students with disabilities avoid academic regression during the summer months. This is a new, unique venture because this is Salem County's first attempt at an extended year program, and most students with disabilities are generally not offered an extended year. Each program offers students different services based on their individual needs--one program offers occupational, physical, and speech therapies, while another offers socialization skills and behavioral supports. The three programs are for students ages five to twenty-one and last until mid-August. "I definitely see a difference between the children that attend the summer program and those who do not," said Regional Day School Principal Frank Maurer. "The program really seems to help the students."
Full Story: Shabria Davis, Extended School Year School Program Helps Students with Disabilities, Today's Sunbeam, August 3, 2009, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Major Company Enhances Phone-Conversations for Persons with Aural Disabilities
AT&T has released new technology that allows people who are deaf to decrease significantly the time it takes to communicate over the phone. In a normal conversation involving a relay operator, the operator types statements to the hearing-impaired user, which can only be viewed periodically. But by logging in to a specialized AOL IM interface, the hearing-impaired user can see the text that the operator is typing, one letter at a time. AT&T is the first company to offer this real-time interface and is doing so free of charge.
Full Story: PR Newswire, AT&T Premieres Real Time IM Relay for Customers with Hearing and Speech Loss, Sept. 28, 2009, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Social Security Improves Disability Application Process
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is expecting over 3.3 million disability applications in 2010 alone. SSA sends millions of requests for medical information to different healthcare providers to process these applications and receives information manually through non-electronic records. SSA plans to improve processing time of applications by receiving medical information electronically, which greatly improves the efficiency of the process. SSA plans to advance the technology of sending electronic medical records (EMRs) by giving $24 million in contracts to health IT companies. Pilot programs in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have reported a significantly reduced processing time for disability applications.
Full Story: Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Social Security to Put $24 Million into EMRs, InformationWeek, August 12, 2009, available at
2. Disability Rights and Advocacy Groups Demand Non-Institutional Care Options
At the end of July, many disability rights organizations and advocacy groups gathered in Philadelphia, where the National Conference of State Legislators summer meeting took place. The groups demanded better options instead of institutionalization. Medicaid does not require states to provide funding for home or community based services, which Linda Anthony, from the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRNP), says usually costs much less than institutional care. Pennsylvania already has long waiting lists for the less desirable institutional care and limited funding to improve services, forcing many to wait years for any type of services at all. According to DRNP, the state's final budget must minimally include the amount recommended by the governor at the same level of funding of other key programs and restore the $3 million recommended for state budget cuts.
Full Story: Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians with Disabilities Call for an End to Institution-Only Options, PR Newswire, July 23, 2009, available at
3. Proposition Submitted to Push PTSD Claims Through VA Faster
The Department of Veterans Affairs struggles with a larger backlog of claims than ever before. The VA has more than 400,000 backlog claims, up significantly from the backlog of 253,000 six years ago. Although the specific number of those claiming PTSD is not listed, the factors leading to the backlog include the influx of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, aging Vietnam veterans with new or worsening conditions requesting care for the first time, Congress's expansion of certain benefits, and improved outreach efforts by the Department of Veterans affairs.
Rep. John Hall has made a proposition to help PTSD claims pass through the system faster by requiring that a veteran with a disability only prove that he or she had served in combat. Hall argues that although expensive it would reduce backlog and the time it takes for veterans to receive compensation.
Full Story: Rebecca Fiss, Veterans Affairs Flooded with New Disability Claims, The Dallas Morning News, July 15, 2009, available at
1. ODEP Releases Informational Brochure for Employers of People with Disabilities
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in the U.S. Department of Labor has released a new brochure to inform employers about facts related to workers with disabilities. The brochure summarizes the results of a survey assessing employer beliefs on productivity, recruitment and advancement of workers with disabilities. Additionally, the brochure lists tools and services employers can use, such as tax credits, assistive technology, flexible work schedules and more.
Full Story: Office of Disability Employment Policy, Employer Perspectives on Employment of People with Disabilities, August 2009, available at
2. When Should Applicants Disclose Their Disability to Potential Employers?
Toni Bowers, a career development blogger at techrepublic.com, addresses the question of when job applicants should inform their potential employers that they have a disability and may need reasonable accommodations. Ms. Bowers states that requests for pre-interview disclosure are illegal and employers cannot ask disability-related questions on their application. However, she does recommend full disclosure at the time of interview. She argues that by informing a potential employer of needed accommodations, the applicant will be able to determine if she or he can be reasonably accommodated. Additionally, Bowers recommends that potential employees that need accommodations prepare examples and references ahead of time to show employers how to use accommodations effectively on the job.
Full Story: Toni Bowers, When Should a Job Applicant Disclose a Disability? July 20, 2009, available at
1. People to Leave Hospitals and Return to Their Communities
Under a settlement reached with the state of New Jersey hundreds will be released from psychiatric hospitals and return to communities to live independently. The settlement stems from a case in 2005, where 1,000 residents were cleared for release, but were kept in the hospitals when the state announced that it did not have appropriate services for them in the community. As part of the settlement New Jersey has agreed to create over 1,000 new housing opportunities by 2014.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Hundreds to Leave Psychiatric Hospitals for Community Living, July 28, 2009, available at
2. Inadequate Conditions at South Carolina Homes for People with Disabilities
Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., has released a report on conditions in community residential care facilities (CRCFs) in South Carolina, which were observed during unannounced visits to the facilities. Many CRCFs were found to be unsanitary. Most CRCFs did not provide adequate food or heat to their residents, nor were residents provided with necessary supervision or medication. CRCFs in South Carolina are home to more than 16,000 residents with physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities. The report identifies six specific CRCFs, one of which has now closed because of unsafe conditions.
Full Report: The Protection and Advocacy System for South Carolina, No Place to Call Home: How South Carolina Has Failed Residents of Community Residential Care Facilities, June 22, 2009, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. New NCD Report on Emergency Management for Persons with Disabilities
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report based on research and a review of current and past policies and practices, making recommendations for governmental officials entrusted with providing services during emergencies for persons with disabilities. The report focuses on specific intervention strategies for the Obama administration, federal, state and local officials, as well as best practices for individuals with disabilities.
Among the policy recommendations, the report proposed that the Obama administration convene a summit with governmental and non-governmental organizations on disability issues in disasters; appoint specific White House staff to handle only disability-related matters; and increase funding for community organizations that involve persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness. The report was funded with a $300,000 appropriation pursuant to the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (H.R. 5441), which designated many emergency preparedness research responsibilities to the NCD.
Full story: National Council on Disability, Effective Emergency Management: Making Improvements for Communities and People with Disabilities, August 12, 2009, available at
2. Wal-Mart Donates $500,000 to Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities
The National Organization on Disability's Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI) received a $500,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation in recent weeks. The EPI is charged with providing services to persons with disabilities during emergency situations. Specifically, the grant will fund EPI's advocacy network, increase national awareness of these issues, increase outreach to individuals with disabilities, and revise and improve training and education of state and county officials.
Full story: Jenna Weiner, Wal-Mart Foundation Grant to Help Improve Emergency Preparedness for Disabled Americans, The Daily Tell, July 22, 2009, available at
3. Report Identifies Hurricane Ike Challenges for Persons with Disabilities
Recently, the University of Texas Health Science Center published a chronicle of the experiences of some 30,000 Houstonians with severe disabilities during Hurricane Ike, which battered the city in summer 2008. The project received funding and other support from various organizations, like the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and the United Spinal Association. As a result of the report, a disaster assistance pamphlet with both general and area-specific information will be generated for persons with disabilities, and made available at www.disability911.com.
Full story: Newswise, Hurricane Ike Report Identifies Hardships Endured by Houstonians with Disabilities, August 11, 2009, available at
1. Malaysian Disability Advocate's Legacy Celebrated Despite His Tragic Death
Professor Datuk Dr Ismail Md Salleh, a blind man, died of cardiac arrest while flying from China to Singapore on August 27 of this year. A leader for Malays with disabilities and chancellor of a local college, Ismail was the first person with a disability in Malaysia to be appointed senator. His friends, colleagues, and students each praised his kindness and passion for his work. Prior to becoming senator, Ismail worked at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia.
Full Story: Malaysian National News Agency, Nation Mourn[s] Ismail's Death, Aug. 27, 2009, available at
2. Philippine Non-Profit Opens Village Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities
The Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, a Philippine-based poverty reduction non-profit, has dedicated a village to be populated entirely by persons with disabilities. The provincial governor donated the two-hectare lot. At the groundbreaking ceremony, the governor stated that construction of the houses would be customized depending on the specific needs of the residents. Despite the segregating nature of the project, representatives from disability organizations expressed their gratitude for the donation. Since the Philippine government has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it may need to reconcile its ratification with the existence of this segregated community.
Full Story: Jekki Pascual, GK Opens Village for Persons with Disabilities, Aug. 26, 2009, available at
3. President Obama Signs U.N. Treaty on Disabilities
The United States joined 141 countries as a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century and the first that the U.S. has signed in nearly a decade. For the treaty to be ratified in the U.S., two-thirds of the Senate must vote favorably. Currently, 62 countries have ratified the treaty and it entered into force internationally in May of 2008. The Bush administration previously declined to sign it in 2006.
Full Story: Jessica Schimmel, U.S. Signs Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Aug. 03, 2009, available at
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The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is the collaborative product of Editor-in-Chief David W. Klein, Ph.D., Executive Editor William N. Myhill, M.Ed., J.D., Managing Editor Deepti Samant, M.S. (Rehab), M.S. (ECE); and Associate Editors Jason Benetti, B.A., Erica Dolak, Kenneth Hunt, B.A., and Eric Moll, B.A..
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